In October 2016, the four Kopernikus-Projects researching the German Energy Transition started their work. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has funded the four projects with up to 400 million Euros. Based on a ten-year term, the four research proejcts investigate different aspects of the Energy Transition and develop concrete proposals.
Three of those (“Neue Netzstrukturen”, “Power-to-X”, and “Industrieprozesse”) have a rather technical perspective. The fourth Kopernikus-Project ENavi researches the German Energy Transition from a system-analytical perspective that is coined by social sciences. It is the largest social-science cooperation project in the German history.
The focus of ENavi is on the interaction of the sectors heat, power, and mobility as well as on the consequences of interventions in the socio-technical system. In order to be able to understand the consequences it is necessary to generate an integrative perspective, which conceives societal actions as interactions between developments of technology, forms of organization, regulation, and behavior adaptation.
The 84 participating organizations have set themselves the goal of providing and testing examples of robust knowledge for a better understanding of the complex processes within the framework of the German Energy Transition.
But what are the desired and unwanted effects of interventions on the energy system? The research team wants to carry out a systemic assessment of the interventions with the aim of giving impulses for a humane design of technology, economy and society. Humane means that the transformation paths to be developed should meet the criteria of ecologically sound, economically viable and socially just development.
There are 9 work packages (of a total of 13) within ENavi that will elaborate and integrate interdisciplinary system knowledge.
• Technological developments in the system concept
• Economic instruments and effects
• Regulation, institutional analysis and participation
• Change of structures and processes in multi-level governance
• Behavior in the changing of values and lifestyles
• Interactions with the natural environment
• Integration of electricity, heat, mobility
• Digitization and ICTs
• International dimension
In two other work packages, orientation knowledge will be provided.
• Evaluation criteria
• Roadsmaps and navigation
In addition, there are two work packages, in which the transformation knowledge for the Enery Transition is at the forefront:
• Transdisciplinary discourse and competence teams
• Model regions (from 2019 on, the recommendations of the navigation tool will be elaborated within model regions and “Reallabore”)
Concept & Approach
The ENavi consortium wants to provide evidence-based knowledge, and follow the quality criteria of the respectively applied disciplines, but also develop (socially) robust and interdisciplinary knowledge. In addition, social knowledge is to be integrated into the process of knowledge generation and knowledge evaluation. ENavi wants to bring together disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge, which leads to an integrative perspective that connects functionally seperated areas.
The ENavi research team aims to generate policy and design options together with policy makers and stakeholders, and to evaluate them using systemic impact assessments. This is not just about political actors as designers of interventions. The economic and civil society groups also “intervene” in the energy system and have various options for action. They are therefore as much the focus of the transdisciplinary work as actors from politics and administration.
ENavi has set itself the task of exploring, characterizing and, if possible, quantifying the possible effects that the respective interventions can have on nature, economy and society, using knowledge-based research and systematic methodological approaches. The question is, which undesirable side effects may arise and how effective, efficient, resilient, legitimate, legal, and sustainable the interventions are. A matrix of evaluation criteria is to be used to assess the consequences of the interventions and to derive recommendations for the future design of interventions.
The time horizon for the analyzes and scenarios developed by ENavi is until 2050 – this corresponds to the time perspective of the energy concept of the Federal Government. Within this timeframe, however, medium-term horizons such as the next ten years can also be looked at more closely. The first funding period is three years (2016 to 2019).
GCF within ENavi
GCF leads Work Package 9 “Digitization and ICTs” together with Fraunhofer-IWES.
The penetration of the energy system with ICT or its digitization allows for synergies which were previously unthinkable. As a result of the fact that a huge amount of operational data is generated, degrees of freedom and regulatory possibilities arise, which on the one hand are compellingly necessary for the safe, economical operation of the entire energy system, but on the other hand also open up new utilization options. The content of WP 9 is the study of the development paths of the energy / ICT system with all possible uses such as electricity, heat, gas, mobility and social anchoring.
(A short article in GAIA on WP9’s activities is available here)
GCF researches the dimensions of digitalization in society as a whole.
Digitization implies changes not only in the energy system but in many other areas – markets for ICT and services based on it; financial markets; education and parenting; settlement structure, and more. The complex of these changes will produce patterns for the whole of society that are by no means fixed and whose implications for the energy transition are crucial. GCF investigates this with the means of interviews, literature research, modeling (creation of a multi-scale simulation with the goal of quantitative visualization of different usage options and digitization from a socio-technical point of view) and scenario analysis in order to integrate them into the navigation system of the overall project. One central building block in this regard is the development of the Decision Theater methodology. This methodology supports group decision processes with data and simulations, displayed on large screens surrounding the group. The computer output changes depending on how the discussion progresses.
In November 2018, GCF held the first Mobile Decision Theater on the role of mobility in the German energy transition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW). For more information on the Decision Theater please visit GCF’s webpage on the event here and the corresponding entry on the BMBF’s (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) website for the Kopernikus projects here.